Antonya Cooper: Mother who gave terminally ill son morphine to 'end his life' dies of cancer

A mother who admitted giving her terminally ill young son a dose of morphine to "quietly end his life" has died, according to reports.

Antonya Cooper, 77, told BBC Radio Oxford last week that she gave her seven-year-old son Hamish a "large dose" of the drug before he died at home in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, in December 1981.

She said her son - who had been suffering from a rare childhood cancer known as stage 4 neuroblastoma - had been "in a lot of pain" by the end of his life.

During the interview, she said she understood that she was potentially admitting to manslaughter or murder, but said any investigation into Hamish's death would "have to be quick" because she was "dying" from her own incurable cancer.

On Monday, the BBC reported a statement from the family saying Ms Cooper had died.

"She was peaceful, pain-free, at home and surrounded by her loving family," the statement said.

"It was exactly the way she wanted it. She lived life on her terms and she died on her terms."

The family confirmed that they had been visited by officers from Thames Valley Police, which previously said it was "aware of reports relating to an apparent case of assisted dying of a seven-year-old boy in 1981".

When asked for an update following Ms Cooper's death, Thames Valley Police said the force "is still making enquiries in its investigation".

Before her death, Ms Cooper said she had joined assisted dying clinic Dignitas in Switzerland and had called for the UK government to legalise assisted dying so death is not "so intolerably inhumane".

She also formed the charity The Neuroblastoma Society, now known as Neuroblastoma UK, in 1982 and served as chair from 2001-2007.

Paying tribute to Ms Cooper, the charity said: "We are deeply saddened by the news of the death of Antonya and extend our heartfelt condolences to her family and friends during this difficult time.

"Antonya's contributions have been invaluable, and her legacy will live on through the vital research we fund."

'The time was right'

Euthanasia - deliberately ending a person's life to relieve suffering - is illegal in England and could be prosecuted as murder or manslaughter.

As with all criminal offences, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) must follow the principles set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors when deciding whether to start or continue a prosecution.

Speaking about her final moments with her son, Ms Cooper told PA Real Life in May that Hamish was expressing that he was in pain and had said "yes please, Mama" when she asked if he would like her to take it away.

"I gave him a dose of morphine sulphate," Ms Cooper said.

"We had watched him brave through all that beastly treatment, we had had him for longer than the original prognosis, so the time was right."

In the UK, there have been louder calls for a change in the law around assisted dying in recent months, with legislation being considered in Scotland, the Isle of Man and Jersey.

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Broadcaster Dame Esther Rantzen has called for a free vote in the UK parliament on assisted dying. She has stage four lung cancer and revealed in December she had joined Dignitas.

Campaigners opposed to a change in the law have expressed concerns that legalising assisted dying could put pressure on vulnerable people to end their lives for fear of being a burden on others.

They claim the disabled, elderly, sick or depressed could be especially at risk.